On Monday, October 9, 2017, the FIU chapter of Turning Point USA (TPUSA) hosted the organization’s founder, Charlie Kirk.
Turning Point USA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded on June 5, 2012 with a mission to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.
According to their website, “Since the founding, Turning Point USA has embarked on a mission to build the most organized, active, and powerful conservative grassroots activist network on college campuses across the country. With a presence on over 1,000 college campuses and high schools across the country, Turning Point USA is the largest and fastest growing youth organization in America.”
In his speech, “Why America is the greatest country in the history of the world,” Kirk lists the following reasons:
- “Our” economy is the best
- The US is the most generous country
- Meritocracy and upward mobility
- America is the least racist country
Kirk’s speech does more than just defend capitalism. It strengthens ideological underpinnings of fascism – nationalism, populism, and disdain for some other group. In the case of Turning Point, their “other” is the poor and working class. Turning Point represents one fraction of the fascist movement that is working to consolidate its social base among the petite bourgeoisie, utilizing young people and the university system to do so.
We provide some of the fundamentals that Kirk, nationalists, and fascists always leave out. To defend capitalism and rally people to their side, they ignore the brutal realities of how it actually functions – exploitation, imperialist domination, and class antagonism.
Kirk opens up by stating that “we”- the US – are great because of god-given, inalienable rights. Rights for who?
The US was founded on land theft and genocide of indigenous peoples. It was built on slavery and exploitation of the working class for the accumulation of wealth and private property for capitalists. The same arrangement still exists.
Capitalism is a class divided society where wealth for some classes – capitalists and the petite bourgeoisie, aka middle class – depends on the exploitation of the international working class.
We’re going to address Kirk’s points in the following order: 2, 3, 5, 1 & 4.
2. “Our” economy is the best.
Kirk says the reason we have a degree of relative wealth in the US, the reason we have iPhones, low cost rideshare services, like Uber, access to education is because of free enterprise and entrepreneurship in the US, made possible by free markets.
He ignores how wealth and products are actually realized. Capitalism requires ever-increasing profits, which demands lower production costs, ie lower wages and exploitation. At this point in time, virtually every company or business depends on the dominated or exploited labor of workers in the US and other countries to produce its goods… or products needed to provide a service.
Imperialism is the natural expansion of capitalism. The constant need for growth and increased profits sends capitalists beyond national boundaries in search of new markets and lower production costs (read unregulated exploitation of labor and environment).
Under the guise of economic development, USAID, Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank work in conjunction with imperialist governments (US, Canada, Europe, etc) and multinational corporations to dominate countries into the global economy. They destroy local economies and subsistence cultures with tactics like land grabs, privatization and grain dumping. Military force and political manipulation are also used.
Loans are given for new “economic development,” creating large debts. Countries are “encouraged” to break up organized labor, provide tax holidays, and gut all forms of regulation to attract foreign investors.
Based on its “comparative advantages,” countries are assigned a role in the global economy. Generally, many countries are utilized for agri-business, privatization and extraction of natural resources, tourism, and a hyper-exploited labor force.
Dependency is also a fundamental relationship in imperialism. Once their national economies are destroyed, countries like Jamaica, Haiti, Honduras, and Bangladesh depend on imperialist countries and companies for basic goods they used to produce themselves from agriculture to breast milk. For example, once farmers are forced to quit saving seeds and to shift to Monsanto crops, they are saddled in debt and cannot grow produce without purchasing all of the inputs from Monsanto – seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, and machinery.
Note: Most label these countries “third world.” For us that term is inaccurate. These countries have been coerced into the global economy. Their local industries and economies are destroyed, along with any regulations that protect their interests. They are saddled in debt and made poor through imperialist domination. So, we call them “dominated countries.”
Most dominated countries, if not all, are organized economically, politically and ideologically to benefit imperialism, rather than for the people of that country, and their reproduction as a society.
Kirk denies the reality of mounting, global inequality. He says, “Just because someone gets richer, doesn’t mean someone else gets poorer.” But this is exactly how wealth is accumulated, even in the case of the tech companies that Kirk cites.
Capitalists’ wealth comes off the backs of others. Access to cheap goods, the proliferation of technology, and the capital to build universities and libraries has been accumulated through exploitation of labor here in the US and internationally. Exploited mine workers and children, not US entrepreneurship or ingenuity, produce your technology at a low cost. Competitive rates for Uber rides come at the expense of drivers.
Further, capitalism/imperialism does not occur through some natural flow of “free markets” but through intentional policies, laws, regulations and institutions founded specifically for regulating in the interests of capitalists and their corporations. Often it happens through violence and force .
3. The US is the Most Generous Country in the History of the World
Kirks says that the US is the most generous country in the world. Never mind President Trump’s response to Puerto Ricans dying without power and water after hurricanes Irma and Maria. Kirk says the US is generous because Americans donated $600 billion last year to charitable causes.
We’re not sure where this number came from, as all of the numbers we found for 2015 – 2016 put charitable giving at around $370 billion, but that’s not really the point.
Non-profit organizations, aka non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are the core recipients of this charitable giving. Donations to nonprofits are predicted to hit nearly $400 billion dollars in 2017, but it’s important to note that this major increase in giving comes primarily from very wealthy donors and their foundations.
Charitable giving is a way for the rich to avoid taxes… taxes that would go into the public sector to help maintain social services, infrastructure projects, etc. Instead, reactionaries say that the private sector and NGOs are best suited to handle this. But now services are piecemeal, based on wealthy donors’ and board members’ interests. They determine “solutions,” not the people facing these problems in the US and in dominated countries.
Generally, non-profits cater to the requirements of funding guidelines provided by foundations, major donors, or US government agencies who also supply much funding to NGOs. These organizations that are set up to address the externalities of capitalist/imperialist policies – poverty, underfunded schools, hunger and homelessness – are just a good PR front. They put a band-aid on a gaping wound, do a few good things, work to build up their staff, publish some feel good stories with moving photos in their newsletter… but do nothing to address these problems systematically.
NGOs also help to pacify and control social movements. College grads with a conscience become paid “organizers,” implementing the charity programs of the wealthy, while those facing the domination and exploitation of capitalism become passive and dependent recipients of aid, rather than organizing and fighting for their rights.
This happens in the US and internationally. NGOs are a tool of imperialism, as is US humanitarian aid. Haiti is a prime example of the imperialist role NGOs play in strangling self determination and people’s interests.
Yes, we agree that humans around the world are generous. It’s our natural instinct to help and support one another, to cooperate. But under capitalism, this instinct is funneled into capitalists/imperialist interests of expanding markets and profits. Sure, in the wake of natural disasters aid is needed, but it cannot address the fundamental conditions that require aid – poverty, poor infrastructure, lack of education and social services. Under capitalism, “charity” takes the place of needed solidarity. Disaster is capitalized.
5. US is the Least Racist Country
Kirk says the US is the least racist country, because it is the most diverse. Diversity does not negate racism.
We’re showing to this parasitic class of anti white vermin that this is our country. This country was built by our forefathers, and sustained by us. It’s going to remain our country… People realize they are not atomized individuals. They are part of a larger whole… We have been organizing on the internet… and now as you can see today we greatly outnumbered the anti-white, anti-american filth. And at some point we will have enough power that we will clear them from the streets forever! That which is degenerate in white countries will be removed!
This is a quote from Robert Ray, a Neo-Nazi who writes for The Daily Stormer in an interview with Vice News at the Unite the Right Rally took place August of this year in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was likely the largest openly white supremacists gathering in over 100 years, where a woman was killed and several injured by fascists.
Kirk quickly references the US “past” with slavery as “something to learn from,” but completely ignores the growing consolidation of fascist, white supremacist groups, emboldened by Trump’s presidency. He ignores that in 2017, African-American and Latino drivers are more likely to be arrested when pulled over by police. And, forget that US prisons are predominantly filled with poor people of color. The murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, countless others, and the killing spree of Dylan Roof do not register in his assessment of racism in the US.
Glossing over these facts and brushing this reality under the rug is active participation in allowing foul, racist ideas to go unchecked, to spread. Racism is an element of fascism. Fascism is a political and ideological tendency of capitalism used to address or resolve a decomposing capitalism.
Fascism and capitalism use racism and other false divisions to keep people disorganized, people who actually share class interests. Class unity poses a threat to capitalism’s ability to dominate and exploit, and accumulate wealth.
Slavery and the exploitation of workers are two of the most repugnant social relations that humanity has known. There is nothing of these social relations for which one should be proud, unless you have enriched your self from them. Any conscientious human being should work their hardest to put the heritage of these social relations in the garbage can of history.
One can’t examine cultural diversity without addressing immigration. Thanks to the conditions created by US imperialism in dominated countries, as mentioned above, massive migration occurs. As of 2010, more Puerto Ricans live in mainland US, than in Puerto Rico because of the economic conditions created by US imperialism.
Thousands of unaccompanied Central American youth continue to make the dangerous journey to cross the US/Mexico border. Most would like to stay in their home country. They come to the US because US imperialism – military interference, economic and political policies have made it impossible for them to stay due to violence and broken local economies.
Diversity in the US is the direct result of the country’s interference with and domination of other countries.
Let’s go back to Kirk’s example of the Argentines, Venezuelans and Cubans in the room. Not everyone immigrates for the same reasons, and not all immigrants are the same. Each comes with their own class background from their home country. There’s a tendency in the US to lump all immigrants together. Many of the Argentines, Brazilians and Venezuelans who immigrate to Miami, come with capital to invest in real estate and business. In fact, immigrants with at least $500,000 to invest in businesses employing American workers can snag EB-5 visas that qualify them for green cards, or permanent resident status.
Class position and interests shape economic and political perspectives. There will always be some section of the ruling class in dominated countries that will ally itself with the US and its imperialist interests because as landowners, or capitalists themselves, they stand to benefit as well.
Many Cubans who emigrated to the US before, and soon after, the US- installed Bautista lost power to Fidel Castro came to Florida with capital to invest. Many already operated businesses in the US. Also, up until Obama’s presidency, Cubans received a fast-track to permanent residency through the wet foot/dry foot policy.
So while yes, many immigrants work hard to establish themselves in the US, they don’t all come with the same resources. The immigrants Kirk mentioned came with some form of capital, wealth, or policy support – a leg up on integrating US society. They can align themselves with Turning Point because capitalism/imperialism serves their class interests.
Notice that Kirk made no mention of the immigrants whose labor is exploited to grow the food that feeds this country, the persons who build new buildings, clean houses. Throughout his speech, Kirk consistently obscures and ignores those whom capitalism does not work for – the poor and working class.
4. Meritocracy & Upward Mobility
Inequality is built into the system. But Kirk maintains that capitalism and the American Dream can work for anyone who works hard and makes good choices. He says, “You can start with nothing, make good choices, and then succeed in this country.” For example, he quotes bogus research from the conservative think tank, Brookings Institute, and says that to avoid institutional poverty, one can just follow three easy steps:
- Get a job
- Get married before you have kids
- Graduate high school
Even if one wanted to follow these rules, it’s often not possible when the game is rigged for you to lose. In Chicago schools and neighborhoods riddled with gang violence, even when children work hard to do well in school and do not want to be involved with gangs, it is impossible to avoid.
Everything lies in the hands and choices of individuals, rather than an entire economic, social and political arrangement that requires inequality. It’s your fault that your school is underfunded, or that you can’t afford private instruction, or SAT prep classes. It’s your fault that your neighborhood has no access to a real grocery store or can’t afford healthy foods (they cost more), so you and your family have weight and health issues, but can’t afford health insurance. It’s your fault that even though your parent works full time, they struggle to keep up with the costs of housing, food and clothing for your family.
Or, let’s say you’re able to follow the rules. There are plenty of college graduates who followed these rules. They are saddled in debt, struggling to keep up with the rising rents, living costs and a poor job market.
Bootstraps are a capitalist farce. People who claim they’ve pulled themselves into wealth by their own bootstraps had help through established family wealth, inheritance or public policies like the GI Bill after World War II, or the wet foot, dry foot policy for Cuban immigrants.
Economic inequality is at an all time high, and social mobility is at an all time low. This is due to the expansion of capitalism and the conglomeration of business and wealth into fewer hands. Even capitalists recognize this and the problems it causes.
The ignorance of this reality by Kirk and fellow reactionaries is an intentional form of populism – denying the reality of class and class struggle. This ridiculous simplification posits the position of capitalists and the middle class as the objective reality, ignoring and erasing the realities of poor and working class people.
But, Charlie Kirk not only ignores the poor and working class. He creates disdain for them, demonstrating the realities of class antagonism. Capitalism works for him, so he will defend it by shunning the poor and working class as lazy and poor decision makers.
Sewing the Ideology of Fascism
Turning Point’s arguments may not seem new. Libertarians, the Tea Party, and other reactionaries have been making similar claims for a while. But they are critically important at this moment when a fascist movement is developing in the US.
Capitalism is in crisis. The potential to grow and expand is reaching physical limits. Finance, debt and speculation have toxified the global economy. Climate and sea levels are rising.
Fascism is a political and ideological form capitalism takes to deal with crisis. It’s an autocratic approach to keep the economic engine chugging along for capitalists, and to prevent the people from fighting back, based on their own interests. Nationalism, xenophobia, racism, transphobia and Islamophobia are used to divide us and pacify us.
You might say, Turning Point is not like white supremacists or neo-Nazis. You’re right. There are different fractions within the fascist movement, but the ideas Turning Point puts forward lend themselves to fascism.
Fascism is also an extreme form of capitalist ideology. It’s bootstraps, deregulation, privatization, nationalism, individualism to the max. It creates a social base blind to reality, ready to blame the crises caused by capitalism/imperialism on some “other” – the poor, the lazy, liberals, etc.
Fascism is growing around the world, as capitalism’s crisis is global. We can see this in the German call to fortify the European Union; attacks on workers and social services; slashing of taxes and regulations in France, the US and Greece; and the rise of overtly fascistic parties in the Ukraine, Germany, Hungary, the US and other countries.
There are nuances and peculiarities specific to each context, but the objective is consistently the same – to defend capitalism as it directly attacks workers, students, the planet, and anything that stands in its way.
Reactionaries are organizing to fill society with foul, backwards ideas. Since Trump’s election we have seen the growing consolidation of a fascist social base in the US. Here is a link to Turning Point’s chapter directory.
So when Turning Point is growing around the country, and it’s the largest student organization at FIU, focused on “teaching students how to think,” what does that tell us?
It’s critical that progressives, radicals and militants actively counter reactionary ideas and get organized.
We cannot allow fascist alternatives to spread without fierce opposition. We must not allow society to be pushed back in time. We must defend the bourgeois democratic rights that people fought and died for, while at the same time organizing against the inherently exploitative social arrangement of capitalism/imperialism.
So, how do we plan to organize, to push back, and to work towards our own alternatives – alternatives that represent the people, not capitalists? There are different fractions of capitalists, and some will also resist fascism. But they hold no real alternative to capitalism’s crisis. By necessity and class interest, they will continue to put profits over the interests of workers, students, families, neighborhoods, our health, and the planet.
We need to build and grow our autonomous political alternative to capitalists’ economic crises.
There is too much at stake to sit idle.
Let’s build our diverse movement against capitalism, imperialism and fascism.
Get organized at work, at school, in our neighborhoods, towns and cities.
STAND UP. FIGHT BACK. ORGANIZE!
If you have questions, want to learn more, or want to get involved, don’t hesitate to get in touch: